6th November 2010
A very different experience from 2 days ago!
First, there is an impressive little museum, show-casing how the Massai live.
I find their culture extremely challenging. There is the issue of polygamy. The chief in the village we visit has 9 wives and 63 kids. The husband has to be able to afford to keep each wife and her kids in their own house. Otherwise he can marry as many wives as he fancies.
Then there is male circumcision, with the boy being cast out from his society forever should he blink, let alone shed a tear, during the procedure which is done without anaesthetic. (If I understand it correctly, the procedure is now contributing to the spread of Aids, as the same knife is used on all the boys...)
I think back of some of the Massai I saw in Zanzibar and wonder whether they were „cast-offs.“ One fellow traveller tells me she was propositioned three times by pretty Massai boys while walking around alone...
Then there is the issue of female circumcision, which is officially outlawed, yet our guy almost casually mentions that it is still practiced.
I take a deep breath and ask why men and women are circumcised: „The man, for health, the woman, to make sure she stays with her man.“
I find it really hard not to comment on the notion that circumcision will keep a woman faithful, but I know I won’t have a chance to properly engage in dialogue with someone from a culture that is so alien to my own.
I am glad we are not offered cows milk mixed with cow’s blood, a real speciality! (The cow isn’t killed in the process, but loses about 3 litres of blood.)
The village is only a short distance away – this time it really is only a 10 minutes‘ walk! – but the walk is still pretty exhausting. It’s hot, despite the clouds hanging overhead, and the sand underneath my feet keeps slowing me down.
We pass women building a traditional house. The frame is made from branches and sticks, but the mortar is made of mulch, water and cowdung. Maybe there are other ingredients, but the cowdung settled it for me. I’m not going to go near that stuff! (One of my fellow travellers later helps out briefly and says the mixture has quite a grassy, fresh smell for poo. For her efforts, she is told that a man would have to pay 30 rather than 10 cows...)
As soon as we get near the village, we are surrounded by kids. Dirty hands grab our hands and want to be swung. Others are fascinated by our watches and love to press the buttons on our camera.
I end up giving away by plastic watch to a woman who has just given birth to a daughter who she apparently named Louisiana or another very American name. (Big step for me, by the way, to rely on someone else’s sense of time for the rest of the hols!).
There would have been too much fighting going on if I had given the watch directly to the kids.
On the way back, two school girls are practicing their English: „Good afternoon, mother.“ That’s the only words they seem to know, but one of them seems to need a pair of shoes.
Just what I happen to have brought in my plastic bag!
She keeps giggling and laughing as I had her the beige shoes. She has probably never worn closed lightweight shoes before...
I am also keen to support the Massai women selling goods in their huts, but the items feel touristy and mass-produced, and there is nothing I really like.
However, when I go into the museum shop I find a modern, „arty“ bead necklace. It’s quite pricey at US$25, but it supports both the hospital and the disabled people who are making it, so I am happy to pay western prices.